The Fabulous Mum’s Handbook by Grace Saunders is a chatty guide to becoming and being a mother. Rather than focusing on baby care, the book considers pregnancy, birth and parenting from the mother’s perspective, and deals with the body and mind issues that occur to most women as they become a parent for the first time.

The book is divided into eleven topics that cover all aspects of a new mum’s life, including “Desperately Seeking a Tranquil Space” and “Food Glorious Food”.

In each chapter Saunders tells you about her own experiences, likes and dislikes and gives advice about what she did and what she wishes she did. On some of the topics that require a more technical treatment (like post natal exercise), she consults a “guru” – in this case a fitness professional who works with new mums – to give more detailed information about what your body is capable of. Thankfully, the guru gives realistic advice that encourages new mums to make dietary and exercise changes in their own time, rather than trying to adhere to some scary celebrity timescale.

In this way, the Fabulous Mum’s Handbook is divided up into bite sized pieces which combines anecdotes, advice and general chat. It is a fun text to dip in and out of, when you just want to consult Saunders for advice on a particular topic.

The “mother knows best” sections where real mums make comments on the topic under discussion inject new voices into the book throughout. There is nothing ground breaking here, but the tips and insights are useful. Everyone who decides to go back to work (even if part time) struggles with work-life balance, and this is a subject that Saunders deals with well. Taking a common sense stance, she talks about how to approach maternity leave and your return to work plans with your employer, and how to balance your family and your boss’s needs.

The section on putting together your wardrobe is also very good. It can be so tempting to live in maternity clothes for several weeks (and even months) after you have had your baby. But Saunders is very firm here and advises that you give some realistic thought to your likely shape post-partum, and get some staples of a larger size to your normal one so that you feel better about yourself when you eventually have time to look in the mirror!

As a fashion journalist, image is obviously important to Saunders, and you can see she is very concerned about the way she looks and what she eats. But unlike some books in this genre, she can relate to women of any shape and size, and on any budget.

As with all of these kinds of books, if you are looking for solid medically based advice on diet and nutrition through pregnancy and beyond, this will not have enough depth for you. However, there are some useful recipes and lifestyle tips.

If you are looking for a light read that contains optimistic and non-judgmental advice, this is a great book to have on your bedside table.

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